When I attended the open house for Blue School in the fall and then later in the year for subsequent required visits, I noticed that the space went from white, open and airy, to a living scrapbook of their school experiences. Teachers and students alike posted art projects, large-worded summaries of an outing/experience, photographs everywhere, sculptures, hanging things, lights etc. etc. There were always electronics out on tables to be taken apart (old computers, phones, typewriters etc.)
The space played a major part in this multi-faceted play. I was so excited that the space itself was such a presence for the kids. Everyone left their shoes in the lobby and walked with inside shoes around the area and kids could visit any classroom they wanted, the art studio and with permission the wonder room (a room with a lighted floor, padded 3-D shapes & a rock climbing wall).
Kids had water table time, glow time (black light on), free play, art stations, snack, music time, Chinese & Spanish classes, yoga, movement, art, and on and on. Objects in the classroom were labeled with the children’s photo so that they knew where their items belonged. Unfortunately for Lolly, the photo they used for her was one they took at the playground playdate on the first day of school, in which she chose to cross her eyes and stick out her tongue.
Outside the door was a feelings chart, where everyday the children chose their emotion and placed their photo under that emotion. Lolly chose SILLY every. single. day.
In this free-form environment Lolly blossomed. She was encouraged to express herself, her spirit never quashed by rigid rules and requirements. She was able to freely flow through her day, emotions, friends and joy. About once a week when I picked her up she was exhausted, and the rest of the time she was very chatty and excited about her day (after reluctantly leaving the classroom to go home with her boring Mom). I asked: What did you learn today? Her response was often: We don’t LEARN at blue school…we just play! When I told her teacher’s that, they smiled and nodded.
Whenever I attended a Parent/Teacher conference, her teachers had lists and lists of specific details about Lolly and her behaviors, interactions with other students, new ideas, skills and abilities. The discussions we had about her showed me that not only was she getting more-than-adequate attention, but that her teachers genuinely cared about her. The affect of this atmosphere was evident as Lolly showed love to others and matured in expressing herself. These conferences were a stark contrast to Phoebe’s conferences: brief, checklisty, little specifics about Phoebe as a whole person-good citizen (as my friend Ashley would put it).
The Blue School provided a recommended reading list, which I pulled from for my Mommy College this year. I learned a lot of interesting techniques and theories, not all of which I agree with, but it definitely helped me understand where the teachers and the school were coming from: no forced apologies, very little “NO”, lots of encouraging and letting an idea take flight, a strong desire for each child to feel safe and never intimidated. After experiencing this to an extreme at Blue School I think there are many pros to their philosophies, but I also believe in a good old-fashioned scolding–BECAUSE I SAID SO!!!!!! Or maybe that’s just me stroking my weaknesses….
Overall, I couldn’t be happier (sing it…you know you want to…..), and I am so blessed to have had Lolly attend blue school for a year. It was worth the crazy commute (4 days a week I had to pick her up at 1 pm on the opposite end of the city as Phoebz, 2 of those days I had to attend Phoebe’s school for a meeting in between 9 and 1, so it was back and forth and back and forth) and expense (no vacation 2009-2010).
So, there it is. That is where my daughter went to school. She will not be returning for kindergarten (boo! yeah!) but if the stars had aligned and she was attending there this fall, I would be thrilled. I am excited to see where the school goes…the oldest grade this upcoming year is 2nd grade, but I know the blue school guys have big ideas (one idea I heard was 5 years of high school! what?), and it will be interesting to see where those big ideas take them. To read someone else’s opinion of the Blue School, click here.
PS. I WISH I could list the first names of the kids in Lolly’s class….TOO much….but alas, gotta protect our young ones. But, I will tell you one of the mom’s I met, her name was Piglet.